By Tasha Mahurin
When Tennova Healthcare announced earlier this year that it had secured an option to buy 110 acres off Middlebrook Pike near Old Weisgarber Road, it was made immediately clear that the site would potentially be home to a replacement hospital for Physicians Regional Medical Center, located at 900 E. Oak Hill Ave. in the North Knoxville community.
Neighborhood groups in North Knoxville immediately expressed concern as to the fate of the current hospital- referred to most commonly among residents as “St. Mary’s.” While residents and neighborhood groups in West Knoxville have expressed concern regarding integration of the potential 401-bed flagship campus Tennova intends to construct off Middlebrook Pike into the existing neighborhood.
“We live in neighborhoods too,” Vice President of Business Development and South Knoxville resident Melanie Robinson told The Focus. “We’re extremely empathetic to the concerns of the neighborhoods.”
Tennova Senior Vice President Jerry Askew added that, not only does Tennova want to keep an open line of communication with the neighborhood groups; they have also addressed some of the issues brought forth by the community.
“We actually had our architects change the entire orientation of the proposed hospital because area residents had expressed concern over the potential noise level,” he explained.
While West Knoxville residents have expressed concern regarding the potential for noise, North Knoxville residents are far more concerned about silence and the ramifications of a large, empty medical complex in the heart of their neighborhood.
Robinson confirms, however, that Tennova is committed to repurposing the campus. Tennova is currently working with potential partners to accomplish this but are not at a point in the negotiations where they can prudently discuss specifics. Some proposed intended uses include: primary care, senior care, administrative offices, behavioral therapy, and urgent care services.
North Knox residents have publicly expressed apprehension over behavioral therapy as a potential use for the site, however, Robinson is quick to point out that behavioral therapy is already a large component of the care currently offered at Physician’s Regional.